US. 2019. Action, Horror
Director: Joe Begos
Cast: Stephen Lang (Fred), William Sadler (Walter), Fred Williamson (Abe), Martin Kove (Lou).
John Carpenter homage.
VFW is full of known faces, but we can hardly say their names on the first try. A B-movie made on purpose like this, full of actors recognized for their supporting roles, but you’ve hardly ever seen them lead a movie. Up until now. And what a delight it is. This new Joe Begos production is an homage to B movies, heavily inspired by a classic like Assault on Precinct 13 (John Carpenter 1976). In addition to this, he gives a deep sense of dignity to the much-maligned boomer generation.
Drunken old men vs mindless drug addicts
In an alternate reality, the drug crisis has pushed the US to the extreme. Many areas in large cities no longer have police services due to the large amounts of violence. In one of these ravaged areas, there is the VFW (Veterans of Foreign Wars, a US war veterans organization). The bar that Fred serves. As it is his birthday, several friends of his, veterans of the Vietnam War or Korea, come to visit him to toast and get drunk.
Across the street, there is an abandoned cinema, the lair of Boz, the chief dealer of the new drug Hype. Highly addictive, the demand is far greater than supply. Lizard steals all the Hype from Boz after he murdered her sister, one of the poor addicts hanging around the cinema. The only place for Lizard to run is the bar across the street where the veterans are celebrating. Immediately Boz harangues the entire horde of addicts to bring Lizard and the Hype back to him. Only drunken old war veterans stand in their way.
Perfect B-Movie settings.
Begos manages to capture the essence of Assault on Precinct 13. From the opening titles to the ominous music score. But more importantly, it was to recreate the tension of a group of people, trapped and crouched, having to face an invading force much vaster in number. The grainy look and the great use of red and blue neon lights give VFW its hallmark as a grindhouse B-film. Skillfully, Begos leads us by the hand through the stress and tension of the occupants to highly entertaining action scenes full of violence and gore. The hordes of brain-dead addicts do not speak. This silence and anonymity make them zombie-like, perfect cannon fodder for our heroes to dispatch.
Much of the success of VFW is the cast. They are all recognized actors, but not stars. They have excellent chemistry as a group, with a macho man attitude and practical jokes that camaraderie of years creates. The cast also rely on their long experience to still present convincing action scenes, although later credibly and humorously, they need help to stand up after a fight. The youngest of the old nation in 1952 (Lang) And yes, it’s a bunch of boozy boomers kicked the butt out of a crowd of drug-lost millennials.
All-Star B cast.
Although they have all had more or less recognized roles: Stephen Lang (Fred) Colonel Quaritch in Avatar 2009, William Sadler (Walter) Grim Reaper in Bill & Ted Bogus Journey 1991, Fred Williamson, former NFL player and blaxploitation era star, Martin Kove ( Lou) Kreese in Karate Kid, David Patrick Kelly (Doug), Luther from The Warriors, delivering the classic “Warriors, come out to play” and George Wendt (Thomas), Norm on the TV series Cheers. Even young Sierra McCormick is unrecognizable in her role as Lizard, compared to her character from The Vast of Night.
Even the imperfections are so B Movie.
VFW, right from the beginning, was devised and created as a fun tribute to B cinema. Manages to fulfill this objective, an ambition similar to Psycho Goreman (Steven Kostanski 2020). But it is this very situation of recognizing its identity that gives VFW its limitation of being something memorable, lacking artistic arguments to be something more than it pretends. Continuity is pushed aside for the sake of impact. Wounds appear and disappear. In one shot, we see a character is carrying a bat in his hand, the next a drug package, then a lighter, all these shots in the same scene. So if you don’t want to be too exquisite, and you enjoy a movie with a clear identity, action, blood, and some reinvigoration to the Boomers. If you love the raw excitement of B movies, don’t miss it.
A full fledge B-Movie with all the elements that make this kind of film successful with fans. The All-Star B cast is very entertaining to see them perform their craft.